Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?

 

Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

July 21, 2014

Half a KingMove over George R.R. Martin, there’s a new author of grim, dark, and bloody Fantasy in town. Well, actually, Joe Abercrombie (Twitter handle: @LordGrimdark) lives in Bath, England, and he’s been publishing his brand of “grimdark” Fantasy since 2006,  so he is neither “new” nor “in town.” But, I still maintain that Martin better watch his back and keep pecking away at his DOS based word processor as Abercrombie gains in popularity – and readers. Half a King is the first in the new Shattered Sea Trilogy and is a gripping yarn and page-turningly good read.

Prince Yarvi features as the titular “half king” due to his deformed and crippled left arm, with which he can hold neither sword nor shield. That’s fine with Yarvi, as he never wanted to be a warrior or a king. He’s content to continue his studies with Mother Gundring to enter the Ministry (think adviser / lore master, not priest). However, Yarvi’s plans are greatly changed when his father the king and his older brother are both murdered by a rival king from across the sea. Yarvi must take up the circlet and cloak of the King’s of the Gettlanders and strike back against the treacherous Grom-gil-Gorm, king of Vansterland. Yarvi swears an oath by the six tall gods to avenge his father and kill those who mudered him. King Yarvi, his uncle Odem, and an army of Gettland warriors set across the Shattered Sea for vengeance. One of the best lines in the book is “I may be half a king, but I swore a whole oath!”

Those are just the beginning of Yarvi’s adventures as the young man who wanted to be nothing more than a Brother in the Ministry and one day advise his father and brother becomes a reluctant king. Soon, betrayal leads to desperate circumstances and unlikely alliances. Abercrombie does a wonderful job with his world building, especially considering that this is a fantasy novel that’s less than 300 pages long. There’s tons of action, much of it as bloody as in Game of Thrones, and some great characters that I hope return for the second book in the trilogy. So, if you’re bummed that we’re in between seasons of GOT on HBO, and that we still don’t know when Martin will finish writing the next volume in his epic Song of Ice and Fire series, then give Joe Abercrombie a try this summer.

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The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

June 20, 2014

The Wind in the WillowsKenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859. His father was a lawyer. He lost his mother when he was just five years old, and his paternal grandmother raised him. Living with her, he became acquainted with the river Thames and its river rats (or water voles, as they are not rats), and there – on the river bank – The Wind in the Willows begins.

Winter has passed, and the lightness of the northern Europe spring has arrived. Mole – very much a hearth and home kind of creature – has had it with spring-cleaning and takes the day off. He ends up by the river, which he has never seen before, and meets the water vole Ratty. In his rowing boat, the Rat teaches Mole about life by the river; they are about to embark on many adventures.

If this sounds idyllic and pastoral, that’s because it is. The rural landscape of Grahame wants nothing to do with the Industrial Revolution that had transformed the Great Britain in his time. The quiet adventures of Ratty and Mole are filled with a love for the wonders of the natural world and peak in the chapter “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn;” here the divine essence of nature is revealed.

Enter Mr. Toad.

Mr. Toad is a spoiled aristocrat who gets obsessed with one thing after another: sailing, rowing, caravan travel, whatever. Possessions are his thing. One day, when a motorcar passes Mr. Toads caravan, the car scares the horse and upsets the Rat. Toad, however, is delighted. He has found a new obsession. Before long, his friends learn that he has wrecked six cars and even has been hospitalized on several occasions. Toad pays no heed to the rules of traffic or other’s safety, and his friends decide to protect Mr. Toad from himself.

Mole, Ratty, and Mr. Badger (who was a friend of Toad’s late father) try to convince Toad to change his ways, but he will not listen. They then decide to put Toad under house arrest, with themselves as guards, till he changes his mind. Toad is clever, though. He pretends to be ill, tricks the Rat, and escapes. However, his escape, like most of his triumphs, is short-lived. He steals a car, drives like a maniac, and is caught by the police. Justice has no patience for him. He is sentenced to twenty years in prison.

And this is just the beginning of Mr. Toad’s mindless adventures. The quiet parts of The Wind in the Willows are magical – in nature’s own way – but the outrageous mishaps of Mr. Toad turn the book into a brilliant comedy.

The Wind in the Willows is a tale for children – Grahame originally wrote it for his son – but it’s a story readers can return to throughout the span of a lifetime.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Heidi’s Picks

December 31, 2013

I love to read domestic/family fiction, thrillers, horror, and biographies and really, anything that is contemporary and realistic. Here are my picks for my best reads in 2013 – books that were new to me, and made an impact on me in some way or another.

Watership Down by Richards Adams
Somehow I made it through 16+ years of schooling without reading this gem. To say it is The Iliad and The Odyssey of rabbits is reductive but largely correct.  The novel follows a group of rabbits on the perilous journey to find a safe, new warren in a perfect society in the Downs of England. There are human-like factions, battles, friendships and alliances transferred to the rabbit world.  An excellent tale in which you quite possibly recognize  all of your family,  friends,  co-workers and supervisors in the well-drawn characters. I will never look at rabbits the same way again.   Enjoy a full-length review of this title.

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
Sometimes we need a cozy read to remind us that the world is a good place. In A Week in Winter, the reader is welcomed to Stoneybridge, a tiny town on the western coast of Ireland where the cliffs are tall and the ocean is crashing. Meet Chicky Starr who buys an old stone mansion and turns it into an inn, renovating it with the help of bad boy Rigger and her business-savvy niece Orla. The first group of guests that stay at the inn – and their unique personalities and foibles – make up the plot of this nove. Characters were Ms. Binchy’s domain, and these characters are richly drawn and fully explored. The story line is not as strong as that in some of the author’s earlier works, but honestly it doesn’t matter – the characters make up for it.  Read my full review here.

Six Years by Harlan Coben
I am new to Harlan Coben, and as a suspense and thriller reader, I loved this novel. Jake Fisher is a slightly geeky political science professor at a rural, private college in Massachusetts. Six years ago he fell hard for Natalie, a young painter passing the summer at an artist retreat.  Jake and Natalie frolicked for a summer and then… BAM! Jake was jilted and jolted when Natalie suddenly married another guy and asked Jake to not contact her ever again. Jake upholds his end of the promise until six years go by, and he sees an obituary for Natalie’s husband Todd.  He attends Todd’s funeral in Georgia and gets the surprise of his life when Todd’s wife and widow is not Natalie.  Natalie was never married to Todd. But… wait! Jake attended the wedding, and saw with this own eyes Natalie marry Todd. So, what’s the story? Jake sets off on a semi-obsessive hunt for Natalie, and discovers that she never existed, at least on paper. No one seems to have any memory of Natalie.   The search becomes dangerous when Jake becomes the one who is hunted…but by whom – and why?  See my full review here.

The View from Mount Joy by Lorna Landvik
Every American high school has a Kristi Casey.  A semi-sociopathic, popular, sexy woman-child who can get away with anything, with anyone.  Ole Bull High School (named after person, not an old animal) in suburban Minneapolis can barely contain Kristi, whose popularity shines like a twisted beacon. Who doesn’t love Kristi? Joe Andreson can’t get enough of her, although he has a love/lust/hate relationship with her that begins in high school and continues throughout his life. Landvik writes Joe convincingly, and his character is as solidly developed as that of Kristi, no small feat for a female author. Landvik develops her characters as do few authors, and her dialog? Funny, funny, funny.  I am a sucker for coming-of-age stories, and this one satisfied.  If you like this book, try her Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons if you want to laugh until you howl.  See my full-length post here.

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin
I am fascinated by man versus nature for some bizarre reason. Anyone who has read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series might remember one of the titles in the series is The Long Winter where the Ingalls family almost starved and froze to death on the Dakota prairie during a winter of such monumental snowfall that the trains could not run. The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin is the non-fiction account of that infamous 1888 storm on the Dakota Prairie that left many people stranded – and dead.  Laskin’s ability as a storyteller keeps this book moving along at a brisk pace; what could have been deadly boring is alive with descriptions and characters. This is my book for a stormy day hunkered down with a cup of hot tea, paying homage to central heating. See my full-length post here.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 20, 2013

I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. But I still enjoy wandering the library stacks. Stumbling across a fabulous book is like finding a gem in a pile of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is fun and fleeting, but some books are treasures that become friends for life. These are some of the new friends I made this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. One day while lamenting I had read and reread all his books the title of this book caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked it up. I am so glad I did! I laughed so hard I was sore the next day. I found out Erma Bombeck had a syndicated newspaper column and was a well known humorist. Somehow she had flown under my radar. But no more! In this collection of humorous writings she describes her travels around the world with her family.  And a word of warning: I had this on audio book and had to pull over because the tears of laughter were blinding me.

Variant by Robison Wells
If you thought surviving high school was hard, then this book takes it to a whole new level. Benson Fisher thought he was escaping an intolerable foster care system when he made it into the elite Maxfield Academy. He arrives excited for his new future, but something just seems not quite right. And then students start to disappear.  At this boarding school breaking the rules can literally kill you and escape is impossible.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
When I think of dragons I imagine powerful creatures to be admired or possibly feared. This is the first of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, and these dragons are pathetic and sickly. They cannot survive without their human keepers and as sentiment grows against them they are driven out on a perilous journey. But will they reach safety? Or will the enemies surrounding them doom the dragons forever?

High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
Since I was heading into the mountains for a vacation, I thought what better book to take along then one set in the North Carolina Mountains. And I fell in love with Judge Deborah Knott. Not just because the books are well written, or because the setting was so perfectly described I felt I was there, but because she is so ordinary and believable I felt I was her as I was reading. Judge Knott escapes the pressures of a recent engagement by subbing for a fellow judge in Cedar Gap. There she stumbles into a murder mystery and danger, and what about that handsome DA Lucius Burke! This book is the perfect mix of action, mystery, humor, and romance.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
If you thought writing restaurant reviews was easy, just wait until you read this biography!  Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for most of the 1990’s. With humor and wisdom she draws you not only into the restaurant world, but into her world as well. This book is so well written you will feel you can close your eyes and be sitting in a top steakhouse, or a tiny Chinatown sushi bar, eating along with her.

Best New Books of 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 12, 2013

Here it is! My favorite blog post of the year. It is difficult to narrow down my favorite books of the year to only five, but here is a sample from all over the library. As you can see, I have wide ranging interests, so you never know what I might stumble across to share with you!

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber
This book combines the suspense of a crime drama, the anxiety many of us feel about going into the hospital, and a serial killer into a frightening edge-of-your-seat tale! This is the true story of Charles Cullen, a registered nurse who was implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients during his career and was finally arrested in 2003. The most terrifying aspect of the story is how he managed to be so successful as a serial killer.  For more information read a review of this book or check out the author’s website.

Nobody by Jennifer Barnes
Have you ever felt invisible, overlooked, or unimportant? Of course, it is all in your head. But what if it wasn’t? What if you COULDN’T be noticed? Meet Claire, a Nobody who does not know she is one. Until the day someone tries to kill her.  But how can he notice her when no one else does? And why would anyone care enough to want to assassinate her? With a nice mix of Sci-Fi, action, and romance this is a fun read.

Suspect by Robert Crais
This is a must read for any mystery, action thriller, or dog lover! A new favorite, this book grabbed me from the first pages as it brings together two damaged souls: a cop and a former war dog. Both are recovering from devastating injuries. Both have lost their partner. Can Scott and Maggie help each other heal? And will they ever be able to protect and serve again? You cannot help but root for this duo as they fight to solve the mystery of Scott’s partner’s death.

The Elite by Kiera Cass
The second book in Cass’s dystopian series (after The Selection) immerses you in political intrigue, romance, and … reality TV? Torn between two loves, America Singer is vying for the hand of Prince Maxom even as she is drawn back to her first love. But this prince doesn’t woo his princess in the way you would expect. He selects his bride through a televised competition. Think “The Dating Game” meets “The Real Housewives!” A fun read and I am looking forward to the next installment.

Frozen In Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of WWII by Mitchell Zuckoff
Two stories are woven together in this suspenseful retelling of a tragic and heroic rescue effort from WWII.  The book begins with the November 5, 1942 crash of a US cargo plane in Greenland. The rescue effort saw another plane crash, and the vanishing of a Grumman Duck amphibious plane. The modern day quest for those lost men and the retelling of the months long rescue is a riveting tale. What made it more special is describing the book to my grandfather, an Army lieutenant throughout war, and having him recall hearing about these lost men over 70 years ago.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

November 26, 2013

milkThis is Neil Gaiman’s fifth book published this year! The other books include, Chu’s Day: a picture book about a sneezing panda, The Silver Dream: co-written with Michael & Mallory Reaves – the sequel to the teen novel Interworld, Make Good Art: Neil’s commencement speech from the University of the Arts, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane: a magically creepy book that is only for grown ups. Fortunately, the Milk, however, is for kids and for grown ups of all ages. It is the story of an ordinary dad who has a very extraordinary adventure on his way to the corner store and back to get some milk for his kids’ cereal. What makes this fun adventure even better are the illustrations throughout the story by Skottie Young.

You see, when the dad in this story steps out to get some milk for his kids (because who wants to eat dry Toastios?) he is kidnapped by Aliens on his way back home. The dad escapes only to end up on a ship with nasty pirates. He’s made to walk the plank, but at the very last second is saved by a time traveling stegosaurus in a balloon (Professor Steg invented the time traveling device). Soon they are beset by volcano god worshipping islanders who want to sacrifice them, but some finagling with the space-time continuum pops them away. They travel into a dark land inhabited by vampires, who want to have the duo for breakfast. The traveling companions once again manage to escape certain doom only to end up back home and to be captured once again by the same aliens from the beginning. The aliens then also bring the pirates, the islanders, and the vampires on board their space ship to further menace dad and Professor Steg. During each part of this fun and funny adventure dad almost loses the milk, but fortunately, the milk makes it home with dad, so his kids can eat their Toastios, and he can have his tea.

Kids who read this book will grow up to like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series; and adults who love Douglas Adams will really enjoy this kids’ book! Fortunately for the kids in the story, their Dad survives his adventures to bring home the milk, and fortunately for all of us, Neil Gaiman continues writing (and at an amazing pace!) and created this wonderful story about time travel and breakfast cereal.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

October 28, 2013

Inventive—Check! Fun—Check! Whimsical—Check! Hilarious—Check!

What may I be speaking of? Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Yes, that is the whole title. We’re just going to call it Circumnavigated for the time being.

Reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz, our main protagonist September is whisked away to fairyland by the Green Wind from her boring home in Nebraska. Early in her journey, September is tasked by several witches to get a spoon back from the evil Marquess. This sets in motion a series of events in which September, unknowingly, is pitted against Fairyland’s newest ruler.

The world of Fairyland is rich with vibrant characters. She meets a part-library/part-wyvern (a wyverary) named A-Through-L, a marid named Saturday, and a wrangler in the great Velocipede migration. The brilliantly clever September faces danger around every curve. She forms deep bonds with the friends she makes in Fairyland and, when her time is up, she isn’t sure she wants to ever leave the adventure-filled Fairyland for her home in the Midwest.

The writing is poetic and magical. I felt it was sweet while being fantastical and, even better, providing a strong female protagonist. If you enjoyed books like Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, do yourself a favor and pick this book up immediately.

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Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

August 26, 2013

Cole Matthews is an angry young man. His bullying and fighting at school have already landed him in several juvenile detention centers. Now he has crossed the line by smashing a fellow student’s head repeatedly on the sidewalk to the point of irreparable brain damage. The defendant’s lawyer is determined to see Cole tried in an adult criminal court. If convicted, he will go to prison.

As a last-ditch effort to save him from this fate, Cole’s parole officer convinces him and his parents to try Circle Justice, a Native American alternative that seeks to find healing rather than imposing punishment. The group of community members that make up Circle Justice sentence Cole to a harsh fate. He has to spend one year on a remote Alaskan island, isolated from all other humans, where he must find his own food and build his own shelter.

Cole thinks it all sounds stupid, but he’ll lie and pretend to submit if he has to in order to avoid prison. On the island, he only thinks of escape and refuses to heed the wise advice of Garvey, his parole officer, who is himself a Native American. However, he finds that his usual techniques of lying and intimidation don’t work against hunger, cold, and the Spirit Bear, an unusual albino bear that Garvey had never seen near this island before.

Cole’s near-death encounter with the Spirit Bear changes him in ways that the pleading and cajoling of his parents and teachers never could. Now he is ready for the next step in Circle Justice, and it may be the hardest one of all—forgiveness, and reparation to those he has harmed.

Ben Mikaelsen knows his subject well. He lives in a secluded log cabin near Bozeman, Montana, with a 700-pound black bear that he has raised and lived with for the past twenty-five years. He has also lived as a homeless person in Mexico, so he knows what it is like to be isolated and forced to fend for himself.

Mikaelsen has written a sequel, Ghost of Spirit Bear, about how Cole goes back to his tough, gang-ridden high school and tries to live out the things he learned on the island. As the jacket cover states, “Survival in the wilderness was just the beginning.” Sequels are often not as good as the original, but not in this case. The story of how Cole learns to apply Circle Justice principles in new ways is just as inspiring as his adventures on the island.

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

July 18, 2013

bookcover.phpThis is not a review, it’s a love letter.

I adore this book. Why? It has a likeable narrator in Clay Jannon, a mysterious bookshop, romance, puzzles, secret societies, a San Francisco locale (with a side trip to New York), and a sly sense of humor. The theme of Old Knowledge (books) vs. Internet knowledge gives the author the chance to slip in scenes at Google, a museum dedicated to knitting overrun by first graders, information about fonts, a character who made his fortune creating realistic 3-D versions of breasts, and a warehouse of artifacts that seems a cross between what I imagine Amazon’s warehouses to be and the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The theme also allowed for scenes that reminded me of other books and movies, from Lord of the Rings, Canticle for Leibowitz, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Shadow of the Wind, and, strangely enough, O Brother Where Art Thou.

There are many good quotes for book lovers in this story. My favorite:

“Some of them are working very hard indeed. ‘What are they doing?’ ‘My boy!’ he said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious. ‘They are reading!”

This title was one of the winners of the 2013 Alex Award, given every year by the American Library Association to “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”

This book is fun. (Did I mention the cover of the hardback edition glows in the dark?). It’s the kind of book that made a reader of me, the kind of book that keeps me reading, the kind of book I write blog posts about because I want to share the joy.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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